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Industrial Management & Data Systems

Modeling Errors in Parts Supply Processes for Assembly Lines Feeding


Antonio Casimiro Caputo, Pacifico Marcello Pelagagge, Paolo Salini,
Article information:
To cite this document:
Antonio Casimiro Caputo, Pacifico Marcello Pelagagge, Paolo Salini, (2017) "Modeling Errors in Parts Supply Processes
for Assembly Lines Feeding", Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 117 Issue: 6, https://doi.org/10.1108/
IMDS-08-2016-0333
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https://doi.org/10.1108/IMDS-08-2016-0333
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Structured Abstract:

Purpose: To develop a quantitative model to assess errors probability and errors correction costs in
parts feeding systems for assembly lines.

Design/methodology/approach. Event trees are adopted to model errors in the picking-handling-


delivery-utilization of materials containers from the warehouse to assembly stations. Error
probabilities and quality costs functions are developed allowing to compare alternative feeding
policies including kitting, line stocking and just in time. A numerical case study is included.

Findings: This paper confirms with quantitative evidence the economic relevance of logistic errors
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in parts feeding processes, a problem neglected in the existing literature. It also points out the most
frequent or relevant error types, also identifying specific corrective measures.

Research limitations/implications: While the model is general purpose, conclusions are specific to
each applicative case and not generalizable, while some modifications may be required to adapt it to
specific industrial cases. When no experimental data are available human error analysis should be
used to estimate event probabilities based on underlying modes and causes of human error.

Practical implications: Production managers are given a quantitative decision tool to assess errors
probability and errors correction costs in assembly lines parts feeding systems. This also allows to
better compare alternative parts feeding policies and identify corrective measures.

Originality/value: This is the first paper developing quantitative models for estimating logistic
errors and related quality cost, allowing a comparison between alternative parts feeding policies.

Article Classification: Research paper

Keywords: Human error, material handling error, quality cost, parts feeding, assembly line.
1. INTRODUCTION

In assembly plants an internal material handling systems is needed to periodically replenish stock
along the line according to production plans, thus assuring uninterrupted supply of parts at the
workstations and a continuous production flow. This usually implies moving parts from an internal
warehouse to a dedicated storage area at the workstations (Caputo and Pelagagge, 2011; Kilic and
Durmusoglu, 2015 ). Continuous material supply is one of the most common parts feeding methods,
where each different part type is supplied in an individual container to the assembly line (Caputo et
al., 2015a). This can be made, in turn, adopting two different practices. Small sized containers may
be moved in Just In Time (JIT) fashion adopting, for instance, a kanban-based policy. Otherwise
components containers holding bulk quantities are simply stored along the line and periodically
replenished (Line-Storage, LS). Parts kitting is another frequently adopted method to deliver parts
to assembly lines. In a kitting policy (Brynzèr and Johansson 1995; Bozer and McGinnis 1992;
Caputo and Pelagagge, 2011; Caputo et al., 2015b; Hanson, 2012; Hanson and Brolin, 2012) all
parts required to assemble one unit of the end product are grouped together and placed into one or
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more kit containers. Kits are prepared in a stockroom and delivered to the assembly line, either at
the start of the line (travelling kit concept) or to specific workstations (stationary kits), according to
the production schedule.
Overall, any parts feeding policy requires several material handling operations (i.e. parts picking,
checking, counting, moving, delivering etc.) to be correctly executed in order to provide the right
material in the right quantity at the right workstation. Nevertheless, most of these tasks are manual
so that human error is a relevant cause of quality problems in internal material handling systems,
even if scarcely addressed by the literature (Grosse et al., 2015). Moreover, any material handling
error to be corrected determines additional costs, which jeopardize the performance and profitability
of the business process.
The literature about human errors and quality problems in assembly systems is quite rich, but is
mainly focused on assembly errors. For instance, Cheldelin and Ishii (2004), Fujimoto et al. (2003)
and Zhu et al. (2008) develop line design methods to prevent human errors. Human errors in
assembly tasks have been correlated to ergonomics (Ecklund, 1955; Falck and Rosenqvist, 2014;
Falck et al., 2014¸ Lin et al., 2001) and to the complexity of the task. Methods have been thus
developed to measure operations difficulty (Ben-Arieh, 1993; El Maraghy and Urbanic, 2004; Zaeh
et al., 2009) and to predict quality defects (Su et al., 2010). Estrada et al. (2997) develop a
taxonomy of assembly errors. Kern and Refflinghaus (2015) and Yang et al. (2012) adopted human
reliability analysis techniques to assess human error in assembly operations. Nevertheless, human
errors and quality problems in parts feeding processes received much less attention. In fact, while
errors in parts feeding systems are recognized as a main problem when planning and managing a
material handling system, literature aimed at quantifying such errors in assembly lines feeding
systems is scarce (Caputo et al., 2015a,b,c,d; Fager et al., 2014). Moreover, while models to choose
the proper parts feeding policy have been suggested (Battini et al., 2009; Caputo and Pelagagge,
2011; Caputo et al., 2015e; Faccio, 2014; Hanson and Brolin, 2012, Limère et al., 2012), no
comparison has been attempted between the available parts feeding policies as far as quality costs
and error rates are concerned. Therefore, the issue of modeling quality issues in parts feeding
policies remains an open research field, with important managerial implications. With the aim of
contributing to a better knowledge of this important system design and management issue, in this
paper an attempt is made to develop models to analyse errors during the parts delivery process,
including kitting (K) Line Storage (LS) and Just In Time (JIT) delivery, in order to allow an
economic assessment of quality costs in internal logistics operations to feed assembly lines. This
would provide production managers some decision making tool to explore available alternatives and
make cost-effective decisions. Overall, the aim of this proposed model is: a) to map error types and
develop logic conditions for errors occurrence; b) to provide a quantitative assessment of the
economic impact of materials handling errors in parts feeding systems; c) to identify error types
which have the highest economic impact; d) to allow a parametric analysis assessing how the
logistic system responds to changes in parameters values. Once critical problem areas are identified,
resorting to the proposed models, production managers can develop suitable corrective measures.
The paper is structured as follows. At first the methodological approach is described, then issues
related to kitting quality are discussed by developing a taxonomy of errors. Subsequently, error
models for kits preparation and delivery are developed, including estimation of errors correction
cost. The same is carried out for LS and JIT parts feeding. A numerical example with a sensitivity
analysis is then included in order to point out the most relevant causes of handling errors and
quantify the resulting quality cost in a given scenario comparing the three above policies. Results
discussion and suggestions for future research conclude the paper.

2. METHODOLOGICAL APPROACH

In order to develop quality cost models for the three examined feeding policies a unified
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methodology has been followed based on established techniques for human error analysis (Schuller
et al., 1997). The method includes the following steps.
a) Job description. In this phase the logistic task is at first described, relying on literature description
of the parts feeding processes and standard task analysis techniques (Kirwan and Ainsworth, 1982).
b) Categorization of human errors. A representative set of error categories is assumed in order to
check for their possible occurrence during tasks execution. Given that many different error
classification schemes exist in the literature, the error categories proposed by Swain and Guttman
(1983; Schuller et al., 1997) have been chosen, including Omission, Commission, Selection,
Sequence, Timing (i.e too early, too late) and Quantity (i.e. too much, too few) errors.
c) Derivation of an error taxonomy. By matching the task list and adopted error categories a matrix
of possible human errors occurring during each task execution is obtained for each parts feeding
policy. Then the outcome of each human error is assessed in order to determine the likely
consequence in terms of Logistic Errors (i.e. the outcome of the entire logistic process). An
exhaustive list of Logistic Errors (LEs), each one associated to its set of causal human errors, is thus
obtained. This phase concepually follows the Action Error Analysis approach (Taylor, 2016).
d) Association of Quality Problems to Logistic Errors. By looking at the nature of LEs the resulting
quality non conformity, i.e. the Quality Problems (QPs) are identified together with the means (i.e.
error correction actions) required to eliminate the non conformity.
e) Determination of QPs probability of occurrence. Event trees are adopted to compute the
probability of occurrence of each QP based on the probability of failure when executing the various
tasks of the logistic process.
f) Quality problem cost estimation. Once that QPs have been defined in step d) their corresponding
error correction cost can be determined. Thus, resorting to the probability of occurrence of each QP
obtained in step e) the total expected error correction cost is computed.

Event trees are an established technique (Schuller et al., 1997) used to model event sequences
which can result in different consequences starting from an initiating event. Depending on the
occurrence of one or more intermediate events different outcomes can occur. Each intermediate
event is represented as a binary node in the graph. Two branches depart from each node according
to whether the node event occurs or not. A probability is associated to each branch to measure the
likelihood that the event occurs or not. Given that branches departing from a node represent
mutually exclusive conditions, the sum of branch probabilities is unity. Therefore, the tree structure
determines all possible outcomes and identifies all paths (i.e. independent events sequences) leading
from the initiating event to the various outcomes. Given a path the probability of having the
corresponding outcome is thus simply obtained by multiplying the probabilities associated to the
initiating event and to all the branches determining the path leading to the outcome. In case
alternative paths lead to the same type of outcome, the overall probability of occurrence of that
outcome is computed as the sum of the probabilities associated to those outcomes according to the
various possible paths leading to them. In our case event tree nodes correspond, broadly speaking,
to the various tasks of the logistic process.
However, to compute an event tree requires to assign event probabilities. Given that step c)
provided the human error types associated to each process step, standard human reliability analysis
techniques, described in specialized textbooks (Dhillon, 1986; Kirwan, 1994; Park, 1989; Schuller
et al., 1987; Spurgin, 2010; Taylor, 2016, Whittingham, 2004), can be used to determine the error
probability to be associated to process steps and event tree nodes. Common methods to compute
and treat human error probabilities are THERP (Swain and Guttman, 1983), SLIM (Embrey et al.,
1984; Park and Lee, 2008), SPAR-H (Gertman et al., 2005), SHARP (Hannaman and Spurgin,
1984), HEART (Williams, 1988), and CREAM (Hollnagel, 1998). Advantages and disadvantages
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of human reliability analysis methods are also discussed in literature reviews (Bell and Holroy,
2009; Kim, 2001; Kirwan, 1997, Kirwan, 1998). The above methods usually assign nominal human
errors probabilities according to error categories or resorting to error frequency data published in
databases, to be corrected on the basis of proper performance shaping factors (Kim and Jung, 2003,
Gertman et al., 2005, Swain and Guttman, 1983). Available databases include CORE-DATA
(Gibson and Megaw, 1999), HERA (Hallbert et al., 2007), SHERB (Swain, 1971), but listing of
selected human error data are also available in handbooks and textbooks (Gertman and Blackman,
1984; Kirwan et al., 1988, Kletz and Whitaker, 1973, Swain and Guttman, 1983, Taylor, 2016). As
an order of magnitude, human error probabilities range from 100 to 10-5 per task execution
(Hollnagel, 1998; Taylor, 2016). For instance, Whittingham (2004) reports the following typical
error rates from the HEART methodology: totally unfamiliar task performed at speed (0.55),
complex task requiring a higher level of understanding and skill (0.16), fairly simple task performed
rapidly (0.09), routine highly practised rapid task involving relatively low level of skill (0.02),
completely familiar well-designed, highly practised routine task ( 0.0004). However, given that to
develop detailed models for human errors is outside the scope of this work, this detailed
quantification will not be carried out here for space limitations, and will be the subject of future
research. In this work error probability values have been estimated by expert judgement, which is a
broadly accepted approach (Schuller et al., 1987; Whittingham, 2004), and validated by discussion
with industry practitioners. In an industry setting it can be expected that the same approach is used
or that an experimental observation campaign is carried out to collect statistics of error occurrence
frequency.

In the following sections details of this approach are given for each one of the examined parts
feeding processes. However, it should be pointed out that our main interest is in comparing the
effectiveness of alternative parts feeding strategies under the point of view of error probability and
quality cost associated to the material handling process. Therefore, assembly errors made by the
operator at the workstation (i.e. to insert a component in the wrong place) will be generally
neglected, being independent from the adopted parts feeding method. Only picking errors at the
assembly workstation will be considered, as they depend from the manner parts are presented,
which is different when passing from kitting systems to continuous supply policies. In fact, in one
case parts are prepositioned into a kit, while in continuous supply the operator must choose the right
container before picking a part. Similarly, warehousing errors such as parts missing owing to stock
out or misplaced parts will be neglected. In fact, such errors too are independent from the chosen
parts feeding strategy. Moreover, in case a part is missing from its warehouse location the picker
can report the event, thus interrupting the material handling process. Conversely, to pick a wrong
part in the warehouse, or forgetting to pick a part are manual errors imputable to the line feeding
process, which result in the right part missing from the kit. This will be considered. Finally, in
modeling probabilities of error we refer to both the basic unit load being handled, i.e. a kit or a parts
container, and to errors made at the single part level, as both classes of errors may occur according
to the feeding policy.

3. ERRORS MODELING IN KITTING SYSTEMS

3.1 Quality issues in kitting processes

From a preliminary perspective, kitting offers opportunity for better quality and productivity respect
other parts feeding policies. In fact, in properly prepared kits, parts are readily available, checked,
pre-positioned in a logical order, and can be removed quickly from the container. This supports the
assembler’s work. As a consequence, less time is spent walking around searching for components,
and duration and cost of assemblers training is reduced (Corakci, 2008, Hanson and Medbo, 2012),
while muscular stress is also lower because parts are better presented (Finnsgard et al., 2011).
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Furthermore, kits may be considered as work instructions (Medbo, 2003), thus helping operators
during long assembly cycles. Kitting also provides the opportunity for earlier quality control and
multiple checks, either at the kitting room or at the workstations, thus reducing the possibility of
wrong parts or incorrectly assembled components being used in the final products. Conversely, an
assembler's error (i.e. picking the wrong part) is more likely in a continuous supply policy, where
the operator must choose the right container before picking the part, while in a kit all parts are
already preselected.
However, preparing a kit involves a number of time consuming and error-prone tasks, for instance
retrieval of correct bill of materials to be included in the kit; picking materials from the warehouse
or from a supermarket replenished from the central storage; counting/weighing of parts to ensure
that the right number is included in the kit; preparation of components before insertion in the kit (i.e
cutting to measure, package removal, cleaning and quality control); kit preparation (insertion of
parts in the right sequence and in the proper housing slot, including correct positioning control);
compilation of missing component list for subsequent kit completion; temporary kit storage or
delivery to job shop. Furthermore, kit preparation may be a physically stressful work, owing to
repetitive movements, and this increases likelihood of errors (Christmansoon et al., 2002). Some
practitioners even report that inadequate kit boxes may make parts picking difficult (Corakci, 2008)
or promote materials damage, especially in case of delicate components which suffer from repeated
handling, such as those found in the electronic industry (Williams, 2006). Bozer and McGinnis
(1992) even point out that kitting can be problematic when part quality is low and need to be
replaced at the assembly stations. This requires spare components at some assembly stations or
returning back to the kitting area for substitution.
3.2 Derivation of error taxonomy in kitting systems

Decription of kitting operations from the literature (Brynzèr and Johansson 1995; Bozer and
McGinnis 1992; Caputo and Pelagagge, 2011; Caputo et al., 2015b; Hanson, 2012; Hanson and
Brolin, 2012) allowed to perform a job description identifying the relevant logistic tasks. Tasks
were matched with the Swain and Guttman error categories (Schuller et al., 1997) as indicated in
Tables A1 and A2 of the Appendix for the kit preparation and kit delivery process respectively.
Entries in the above cited tables describe the various human errors associated to each task. Items in
the last column indicate the Logistic Errors to be associated with Quality Problems. Therefore, the
Tables also shows the correspondence between LEs and causal human errors. The correctness of
this taxonomy is also indirectly validated by the correspondence found with a detailed exhaustive
empirical analysis of kitting errors performed by Fager et al. (2014).
According to this analysis there are basically six classes of potential LEs in kit preparation, namely
i) Part missing from kit;
ii) Wrong part in kit;
iii) Part unfit for use/damaged;
iv) Incorrect parts number (in case of multiple parts);
v) Parts in wrong sequence/position;
vi) failure to detect one of the above errors.
These are LEs at the part level which determine a kit non conformity. Please note that a wrong part
inserted in a kit derives from a picking error, but it may refer to an additional part included in the kit
but not necessary. This does not result in an assembly quality error as the unused part will be
returned to the warehouse. Insertion of the right part but in the wrong place of the kit, instead, is
formally an error in the kitting process because it may lead to an assembly error. The above errors
have a chance of being detected and corrected by both the operator at the kitting department during
a final check before releasing the kit for transportation (provided error vi) is not committed), or by
line assembler. However, the assembler may introduce other errors, such as damaging a part or
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picking the wrong part. Overall, kitting errors affect the assembly operations causing unwanted
phenomena, such as kits reassembling, duplicated kits handling, parts cannibalization from
completed kits, and station downtime.

Passing to the kit delivery and utilization process (Table A2) the resulting Logistic Errors are
vii) Wrong kit at destination;
viii) Kit containing non conformities delivered at the workstation (as a consequence of LEs i) to v)
which were not detected at the kitting station);
ix) Assembly error.

3.3 Derivation of Quality problems in kitting systems

The above described LEs determine Quality Problems in the parts supply process. However, all
errors detected at workstations can be immediately corrected by incurring in a correction cost, while
undetected errors determine a non conforming product quality cost and may need separate end of
line correction.
Overall, a kit exiting from the kitting station can be error-free or can include one or more non
conformities. However, error-free kits could be delivered at the wrong station. If this happens the
error may be detected and the kit replaced. Otherwise the kit is used and a non conforming product
will be obtained. In case, instead, the error-free kit is delivered to the proper workstation still some
assembly error could take place. When, instead, a non conforming kit is delivered to a workstation
the non conforming parts can be detected and corrected. Nevertheless, all non conforming parts
which are not detected will be assembled determining a non conforming end product.

Therefore, based on the above defined LEs, the following QPs derive.

QP1K = assembly a non conforming product from a wrongly delivered kit. This is a consequence of
LE vii).

QP2K = rejecting the wrongly delivered kit and obtaining a replacement kit. This too is a
consequence of LE vii).

QP3K = end of line correction of errors from utilization of kits having undetected parts errors. This
happens for all kitting errors, LE i) to v), which pass undetected at the assembly workstation and
lead to an assembly including some non conforming parts. This is a consequence of LE viii).
QP4K = correction at workstation of detected parts errors within a kit before assembly. This
happens for all non conforming parts caused by LE i) to v) which are detected at the assembly
point. This too is a consequence of LE viii).

QP5K = end of line correction of assembly errors from an error-free kit. This is a consequence of LE
ix).

3.4 Computation of error probabilities

In this Section models for estimating the error probabilities in kitting systems will be developed,
limiting the scope of the paper to the travelling kit case.
Event trees are adopted to keep track of unwanted events and error correction opportunities during
the entire logistic process, starting from material picking in the warehouse to kit delivery at the
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workstation and parts assembly. As described above, unwanted events (i.e. LEs) may be caused by
one or more possible error causes (see Tables A1, A2). In this work we do not attempt detailed
modeling of the specific human errors causing material handling errors, as this will be carried out in
a subsequent research. Obviously, the specific logistic process and adopted material handling
practices strongly differ between companies, and no single model can be expected to represent all
possible situations encountered in practice. Therefore, in the following we develop a general-
purpose modeling approach which is representative of a general parts feeding process and is not
intended to detail any specific logistic process. Nevertheless, the approach is flexible enough so that
any company can easily modify the model to suit its actual internal practice. The above
considerations apply as well to models developed for LS and JIT policies.
Before modelling the overall kits handling process, we at first develop probabilities of correctly
preparing a kit, i.e a kit not containing parts errors. Therefore, we need to model the occurrence of
errors for any generic part type to be included in the kit. However, we must distinguish between
single parts, identified as Type I parts (i.e. part types included as a single item into the kit) and
multiple parts identified as Type II parts (i.e. parts to be included in more than one unit). In fact, in
the latter case a counting error may occur. While a complete analysis of all possible error conditions
is quite complex, here we rely on the simplified event tree shown in Fig. 1 for single parts and Fig.
2 for multiple parts. The trees are not exhaustive as they consider only one component at a time and
neglect interaction between errors and sequences of multiple errors. The event trees depict the
following logic sequence of possible events, i.e. a part is missing from the kit (yes/no); the correct
part is inserted in the kit (yes/no); there are less units than required (yes/no) -this applies to Type II
parts only-; a correct part within the kit is damaged (yes/no); the correct part has been inserted in
the wrong position within the kit (yes/no); the kitting operator detects the error during a quality
check at the kitting station (yes/no). Such event nodes correspond to the kitting LEs i) to vi)
discussed previously. For each event node only two outcomes are considered. Events occurrence
and corresponding tree branches have been assigned probabilities of occurrence (i.e. α, β, γ, δ, ε,
etc. or their complementary values). Final outcomes are labeled as Good (G) when the part is
conforming or as Error (E) if the part is not conforming. The probability of occurrence of each
outcome is the product of probabilities associated to the branches describing the path from the tree
root to the considered outcome. When different paths lead to the same outcome the overall
probability of that outcome is the sum of the probabilities of each path leading to that outcome.
According to the tree in Fig. 1 the overall probability pGI of not having a kitting error for the generic
Type I part is the sum of probabilities associated with a Good (G) outcome

p GI = 1 − p EI = µ + ηθ (1 − κ )(1 − λ )(1 − µ ) (1)


while the overall probability of having a kitting error for the generic Type I part is the sum of
probabilities associated with an Error (E) outcome pEI. According to Type II parts (Fig. 2) the
corresponding probabilities are

p GII = 1 − p EII = µ + ηθ (1 − ι )(1 − κ )(1 − λ )(1 − µ ) (2)

Considering that a kit contains NI part types of Type I and NII part types of Type II, and assuming
for simplicity that error probabilities do not depend on specific parts attributes (i.e the error
probability is independent from the type of part being handled) the overall probability of having a
mistake-free kit is the product of probabilities pG of not having errors for all parts of Type I and
Type II included into the kit.

δ = (p GI
N I
)( p GII
N II
) (3)
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Moreover, in average a generic kit will contain NEKI = pEI NI parts types of Type I with one or more
errors, and NEKII = pEII NII parts types of Type II with one or more errors.

Figure 1. Kitting errors event tree for Type I parts.


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Figure 2. Kitting errors event tree for Type II parts.

The logistic process of kits delivery according to the moving kit concept (the one examined in this
paper) can be schematized as shown in Fig. 3, where kits prepared in the kitting area are loaded on a
tugger train and delivered at the start of the line.

Figure 3. Scheme of a kitting system (with traveling kits).

The event tree for assessing errors in the kits delivery process is instead depicted in Figure 4. In this
tree the events determining the nodes correspond to the Tasks listed in Table A2, with the exception
that loading and delivery tasks have been associated for simplicity to the single event/node
"delivery to right destination".
In this case the events to be tracked are that a right kit has been ordered (yes/no), that the kit is
delivered to the right destination (yes/no), that the line operator detects the delivery of a wrong kit
(yes/no), that the kit is error-free (yes/no), that the line operator does detect parts errors within the
kit (yes/no), and that the line operator performs a correct assembly (yes/no).
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Figure 4. Kitting process errors event tree.

Please note that in this model the delivery error includes any error deriving from wrongly picking
the kit to be delivered (i.e the kit is right but the destination is wrong or the kit is wrong and the
destination is right). Given the previous association of human errors to LEs and to QPs, in Figure 4
the final outcomes explicitly represent the resulting Quality Problems.

Referring to Figure 4 if we define pDE as the probability that the line operator detects an error in a
generic part included into the kit, then the probability that the operator detects all potential errors in
a kit is the product of error detection probabilities for all expected non conforming part types (NEKI
+ NEKII)

ε = pDE ( N EKI + N EKII )


(4)

If pEA is the probability that line operator makes an error when assembling a generic part (i.e.
because he picks it from the wrong place within a kit or makes any other assembly error), the
overall probability that all parts are correctly assembled from a properly prepared and delivered kit
is the product of probabilities of correctly assembling each part type included in the kit

ς = (1− pEA )( N +N I JI )
(5)

Based on the event tree of Figure 4 the following probabilities for the possible QPs are obtained.

pQP1K = (1− γ )(1−α β ) (6)


pQP2 K =γ (1− α β ) (7)
p QP 3 K = αβ (1 − δ )(1 − ε ) (8)
pQP4 K =αβ ε (1 − δ ) (9)
pQP5K =αβ (1−ς )(ε − εδ + δ ) (10)

3.5 Computation of error correction costs

If one or more errors occur during the entire logistic process, they could be corrected, bearing a
cost, or remain undetected implying a quality cost for producing a non conforming product. Error
correction cost includes both correction of kitting and delivery errors detected by the line assembler
(i.e. replacement of wrong or damaged components inserted in the kit, replacing the entire kit, or
picking of missing components, which implies an operator to return to the kitting area and pick a
substitute part or kit), and the off-line correction of undetected errors. Correction of undetected
kitter’s mistakes and assembler’s errors, may take place at a separate end of line error correction
station, by bearing the unit cost CRQK (€/error), while correction of detected kitting errors implies a
unit cost CDEK (€/error). The same unit cost CDEK is also borne when an entire kit needs to be
substituted to correct a wrong delivery.
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 2 d avg 
CDE = T p +  C oh (11)
K  v tp 
 

CRQK = CDEK + (Td + Ti + Ta) Coh (12)

where Tp (h) is the time to pick the replacement component or a substitute kit in the kitting area, davg
the average distance between the kitting area and workstations, vtp the walking velocity of the
operator or the speed of the material handling vehicle, Coh (€/h) the operator's hourly cost, Td (h) the
time to disassemble the end product to replace a component, Ti (h) the inspection time needed to
identify the component to be replaced, Ta (h) the time to reassemble the end item. Here the time
spent to retrieve the substitute component is only included as a cost, but it also increases the work
force requirements. We also assume that error correction is carried out by a jolly operator instead of
the workstation assembler, so that the line pace is not slowed appreciably during error correction. A
further outcome is using a wrong kit to assemble the product. This results in a non conforming end
product which may require dismantling the assembly to recover parts or replace the parts from the
wrong kit, bearing an overall cost NCA (€/end item). Therefore, the following possible quality costs
expressions (QCK) can be associated to the previously identified QPs outcomes for each kit handled.
QC1K : Cost for assembly a non conforming product from a wrong kit

QC1K = NCA (13)

QC2K: Cost for rejecting the wrongly delivered kit and obtaining a replacement kit. In this case the
replacement kit enters a new logistic process, so that the total number of kits handled will be greater
than the number of assembled products.

QC2K = CDEK (14)

QC3K: Cost for end of line correction of errors from assembly of kits having undetected parts errors.
This includes three separate contributions, namely the end of line correction of the expected number
of undetected errors in both Type I and Type II parts, the end of line correction of assembly errors
related to error-free parts contained in the kit, and the before-assembly correction of detected parts
errors, as hown in Equation (15).
( ) [( ) ( )]
QC 3 K = CRQ K (1 − p DE ) N EK I + N EK II + CRQ K p EA N I − N EK I + N II − N EK II +
[( ) ] [( )
+ p DE N EK I (CDE K + p EA CRQ K ) + p DE N EK II (CDE K + p EA CRQ K ) = ] (15)
= CRQ K [N EK (1 − p DE )(1 − p EA ) + N p EA ] + p DE N EK CDE K

where NEK = NEKI + NEKII and N = NI + NII,

QC4K: Cost for correcting at workstation detected parts errors within a kit before assembly

QC4K = CDEK (NEKI + NEKII) (16)

QC5K: Cost for end of line correction of expected assembly errors from an error-free kit

QC5K = CRQK pEA (NI + NII) (17)


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The probability of correctly assembling all parts in an error-free kit is pCorrect Assembly = α β δ ζ.
Therefore, based on the probabilities of occurrence of the various QPs, in a kitting system the total
expected annual error correction cost TECCK (€/yr), referring to all components of all kits handled
to produce A assemblies per year (each one requiring a kit), is

(
TECCK = A pQC1K QC1K + pQC2 QC2 K + pQC3 K QC3K + pQC4 K QC4 K + pQC5 K QC5 K
K
) (18)

4. ERRORS MODELING IN LINE STORAGE SYSTEMS

In this Section, models for estimating the error probability and total error correction cost for LS
systems will be developed.

4.1 Derivation of error taxonomy in LS systems

Based on the description of LS parts feeding available in the literature (Boysen et al., 2015;
Bozer and McGinnis, 1992; Kilic and Durmusoglu, 2015) the logistic process in LS systems can be
described as follows. A material order is issued by line operators or by a centralized planning and
control system. The material order refers to the delivery of a pallet containing a given single part
type to a specific workstation. The pallet is then retrieved from the warehouse and loaded onto a
transportation truck. Here we assume a forklift is able to carry a single pallet at a time. After the
pallet is loaded on the forklift it is finally delivered to a workstation. A scheme of this material
handling process is depicted in Figure 5.
Applying the human error analysis procedure described in Section 2, the taxonomy of errors
shown in Table A3 in the Appendix is obtained. The resulting LEs are

i) Wrong pallet at destination


ii) Assembly error.

In fact, when ordering a pallet the wrong kind of material order can be issued or it can be
wrongly interpreted. When retrieving the material from the warehouse the wrong material can be
loaded on the truck. This may be caused by an error in the warehouse (i.e. the material was putaway
in the wrong storage location, the picker picks the pallet from the wrong storage location, or the
picker picks a pallet of a wrong item). Additionally, when the operator loading the forklift finds
several pallets on the warehouse output bay he may choose by mistake the wrong pallet. During the
trasportation phase the possible error is that the forklift driver delivers the pallet to the wrong
destination. However, the station operator could detect that the wrong pallet has been delivered and
ask for returning the wrong pallet to the warehouse and obtaining a substitute pallet containing the
right items. If the line operator does not promptly detect the wrong delivery he may start utilizing
the wrong part type and only later ask for a substitute pallet. In all of the above cases LE i) occurs,
i.e. the delivery of a wrong pallet at the assembly station.
Moreover, provided that right pallet was delivered at the right workstation, the line operator
could still make an error by picking a part from the wrong pallet if multiple pallets are stored at the
workstation. This picking error would result in an assembly error (LE ii)).The same LE would occur
in case an assembly error is committed when the proper part is correctly picked.
It is worthwile to point out that in LS, referring to Table A3, Quantity errors are not applicable,
because a pallet at a time is ordere and a single pallet can be transported. Sequence error is not
appicable given that at a given workstatin there is no strict sequence of pallet deliveries to be
respected. Timing errors, instead, could determine a late delivery resulting in production
interruption. While this is undeniably a logistic problem, it is neglected here. In fact, a material
stock out does not determine an assembly quality problem.
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4.2 Derivation of Quality problems in LS systems

Even in LS the above described LEs determine Quality Problems in the parts supply process. In this
case too, all errors detected at workstations can be immediately corrected by incurring in a
correction cost, while undetected errors determine a non conforming product quality cost and may
need separate end of line correction.

In LS a pallet can be correctly delivered or not. In the latter case, the error may be detected and the
pallet replaced. Otherwise the material is, at least in part, used and some non conforming products
will be obtained. In case, instead, the pallet is delivered to the proper workstation still some
assembly error could take place.

Therefore, based on the above defined LEs, the following QPs derive.

QP1LS = pallet substitution following a detected pallet delivery error. This is a consequence of LE
i).

QP2LS = end of line correction of errors from partial utilization of parts from wrongly delivered
containers. This is a consequence of LE i).

QP3LS = end of line correction of expected assembly errors from picking errors in case of correctly
delivered containers. This is a consequence of LE ii).

4.3 Computation of error probabilities

While a complete analysis of all possible error conditions is quite complex, here we rely on the
simplified event tree shown in Fig. 6 which depicts the aforementioned possible errors occurrence.
Please note that in Figure 6 the events/nodes correspond to the tasks listed in Table A3. Therefore,
the event tree depicts the following sequence of possible events, namely the correct material order is
issued (yes/no). The correct pallet is loaded onto the forklift (yes/no). The pallet is delivered at the
right workstation (yes/no). The line operator detects an error in pallet delivery (yes/no), and the line
operator picks the part from the right pallet (yes/no). For each event node only two outcomes are
considered. Probabilities have been assigned to events occurrence and corresponding tree branches
(i.e. ν, ξ, ο, π, ρ or their complementary values). As aforementioned, in this case too and even for
the JIT policy, error probability values have been assumed from expert judgement, but can be
obtained by experimental observation and from error data listed in human reliability handbooks.
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Figure 5. Scheme of LS parts delivery system.

Figure 6. Material handling errors for pallets in LS policy.

Please note that in the tree of Figure 6, if pEA is the probability that line operator makes an error
when assembling a generic part (i.e. because he picks it from the wrong pallet or makes any other
assembly error), the overall probability that all parts are correctly picked and assembled from a
pallet containing QiLS units of the i-th part type is

ρ = (1 − p EA )Q iLS
(19)
From the tree of Figure 6 the following probability of occurrence of QPs are computed as
previously described.

pQP 1LS = π (1 − ν ξ ο ) (20)


p QP 2 LS = (1 − π )(1 − ν ξ ο ) (21)
pQP 3 LS =ν ξ ο (1 − ρ ) (22)

4.4 Computation of error correction costs

Error correction cost includes both correction of delivery errors detected by the line assembler
(i.e. replacement of wrongly delivered pallet), which implies the forklift to return to the storage area
and pick a substitute pallet by incurring a cost CDELS (€/pallet), and the off-line correction of
initially undetected errors. Correction of undetected assembler’s errors may take place at a separate
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end of line error correction station, by bearing the unit cost CRQLS (€/error). Undetected assembler's
errors occur when parts from a wrongly delivered pallet are used, or when the pallet has been
correctly delivered but the operator picks the part from a wrong pallet. Detected delivery error
correction cost (CDELS) includes transportation of the wrong material container back to the
warehouse and replacement with a correct container.

 2 LWS 
CDE LS =  t r / s + t fr + 4 t L / U +  C oh (23)
 Vv 

In Eq. (23) tfr is the time required to fraction bulk containers in the warehouse to fill part
containers to be handled to the line. In case an entire SKU or pallet is moved to the line tfr = 0. The
average time to reach the storage location and return to the forklift loading area is tr/s. The one-way
trip time from warehouse to the line is LWS/VV, estimated on the basis of plant layout (LWS is the
distance between the warehouse output bay and the average workstation) and material handling
vehicle average velocity VV. The operator hourly cost is Cop (€/h), while term (4 tL/U) represents the
time to load and unload the container. In fact, the wrongly delivered container has to be loaded on
the forklift at the workstation and unloaded at the warehouse, while the same moves are reversed
when the correct container is brought back towards the line.
Assembler's error correction cost is instead

 2L 
CRQLS =  Tp + WS  Coh + (Td + Ti + Ta ) Coh (24)
 vtp 

where Tp (h) is the time to pick the replacement component in the warehouse, the other symbols
being already defined.

Therefore, the following expressions for the expected annual quality costs (QCLS) can be associated
to the previously identified QPs outcomes.

QC1LS: Expected annual cost for pallets substitution following a detected pallet delivery error

A ni
QC1 LS = ∑i =TOT
N
1
pQP1 LS CDELS (25)
Qi LS
In Eq. (25) subscript i indicates the i-th part type, NTOT the total number of different part types
utilized to assemble the end product, A is the annual production volume, ni the multiplicity of the i-
th part type into one unit of the end product, and QiLS the capacity of the pallet containing the i-th
part type. Term A ni /QiLS represents the annual number of containers delivered to the line to feed
assembly stations utilizing the i-th part type.

QC2LS: Expected annual cost for end of line correction of errors from partial utilization of parts
from wrongly delivered containers. In this case the replacement container enters a new logistic
process, but before the delivery error is detected and corrected a given percentage (EP) of parts
contained in the pallet is used by the assembler. Thus an end of line error correction cost is borne
for each part picked from the wrongly delivered container before its substitution.

QC2 LS = ∑i =TOT
1
N A ni
QiLS
pQP2LS QiLS EP CRQLS = A pQP2LS EP CRQLS (∑NTOT
i =1
ni ) (26)
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In the above equation A ni /QiLS has been already define, pQP2LS is the probability that each pallet
handled was uncorrectly delivered, and QiLS EP is the expected number of parts in each pallet
utilized before pallet substitution.

QC3LS: Expected annual cost for end of line correction of expected assembly errors from picking
errors in case of correctly delivered containers.

Considering that of the total annual amount (A ni) of parts of the i-th type consumed, an expected
total of (A ni pQP2LS EP) parts will be picked from wrongly delivered containers and will fall under
QP2LS, the remaining expected amount of parts (A ni) - (A ni pQP2 LS EP) = (A ni) (1 - pQP2 LS EP)
will be picked from correctly delivered pallets (either pallets correctly delivered the first time or
replacement pallets). However, any time a part is picked, there is a probability pEA that the part is
picked from the wrong pallet, thus asking for an end of line error correction cost. Therefore,

( )
QC 3 LS = A 1 − p QP 2 LS EP p EA CRQ LS ∑
N TOT
i =1
ni (27)

Overall, the total expected annual error correction cost TECCLS (€/yr), referring to all components
of all container handled annually to produce A assemblies per year, in a LS policy is
TECC LS = QC 1 LS + QC 2 LS + QC 3 LS (28)

5. ERRORS MODELING IN JUST IN TIME SYSTEMS

5.1 Derivation of error taxonomy in JIT systems

The working of JIT parts feeding systems, where workstations are resupplied by a supermarket
through a tugger train performing milk-runs, has been widely discusses in the literature in all of its
variants (Battini et al., 2015; Kilic et al. 2012; Saaidia et al., 2014, Klenk et al., 2015). Based on
such literature the general logistic process of JIT systems, depicted in Figure 7, can be described as
follows. A material order is issued by line operators or by a centralized planning and control system
towards the supermarket. For instance a kanban card can be used. The material order refers to the
delivery of a small sized box containing a given single part type to a specific workstation. Then
material is loaded on the tugger train and delivered to workstation. Consumption of materials at the
supermarket determines, in turn, a replenishment from the warehouse. Therefore, two logistic
circuits arise in series.
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Figure 7. Scheme of JIT parts delivery system.

The matching of tasks sequence and human error categories determines the taxonomy of errors
shown in Table A4 in the Appendix.The resulting LEs are

i) Wrong container at destination


ii) Assembly error.

In fact, as happens in the LS system, and corresponding to the taxonomy of Table A4, an order
for the wrong kind of material can be issued. This would cause the workstation to receive a material
different from the intended one. Another problem is that the wrong material may be stored at the
intended location in the supermarket. This is caused by an error in the supermarket replenishment
process, i.e the wrong material was replenished or the right material was stored in the wrong
supermarket location. This results too in the wrong material being delivered to the workstation.
Nevertheless, even if the material is properly stored in the supermarket, an error of the picking
operator may occur (i.e. the picker picks the container from the wrong storage location), so that the
wrong container is retrieved from the supermarket and loaded onto the tugger train. However, even
provided that the right container is loaded on the tugger train, the driver may deliver the container to
the wrong destination. In all cases when the wrong container has been delivered to a workstation,
the assembly operator could detect that the wrong pallet has been delivered and ask for returning the
wrong container and obtaining a substitute box containing the right items. If the line operator does
not promptly detect the wrong delivery he may start utilizing the wrong part type and only later ask
for a substitute container. Moreover, even if the right container was delivered at the right
workstation, the line operator could still make an error by picking a part from the wrong container
when multiple boxes are stored at the workstation. Please note that timing, sequence and quantity
errors anre not applicable for the same reasons discussed for the LS case.

5.2 Derivation of Quality problems in JIT systems

According to the above cited LEs in JIT a container can be correctly delivered or not. In the latter
case, the error may be detected and the container replaced. Otherwise the material is, at least in part,
used and some non conforming products will be obtained. Nevertheless, when the container is
replaced, this can happen from the supermarket, in case the error was made by the picker/driver, or
from the warehouse, in case the error was made when replenishing the supermarket. In case,
instead, the pallet is delivered to the proper workstation still some assembly errors could take place.

Therefore, based on the above defined LEs, the following QPs arise.

QP1J = end of line correction of errors from partial utilization of parts from wrongly delivered
containers. This is a consequence of LE i).

QP2J = container substitution from the supermarket following a detected delivery error. This is a
consequence of LE i).

QP3J = container substitution from the warehouse following a detected delivery error . This is a
consequence of LE i).
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QP4J = end of line correction of expected assembly errors from picking errors in case of correctly
delivered containers. This is a consequence of LE ii).

5.3 Computation of error probabilities

The logical sequence of the aforementioned errors may be schematized by the event tree of
Figure 8, where events/nodes correspond to the tasks listed in Table A4, i.e. the correct material
order is issued (yes/no), the right material is stored at the proper location at the supermarket,
implying a replenishment error (yes/no), the correct container is loaded onto the tugger train
(yes/no), the container is delivered at the right workstation (yes/no), the line operator detects an
error in container delivery (yes/no), and the line operator picks the part from the right container
(yes/no).

Figure 8. Material handling errors in JIT policy.


As happened in the case of LS, in the tree of Figure 8, if pEA is the probability that line operator
makes an error when picking a generic part (i.e. because he picks it from the wrong container), the
overall probability that all parts are correctly picked from a container containing QiJ units of the i-th
part type is

ω = (1− pEA )Q iJ
(29)

Therefore, the following probability of occurrence of QPs result fro the tree of Figure 8.

p QP 1 J = (1 − ψ )(1 − σ τ χ φ ) (30)
‫݌‬ொ௉ଶ಻ = ߰൫1 + ߪሺ߬ሺ1 − ߯߶ሻ − 1ሻ൯ (31)
p QP 3 J = σ ψ (1 − τ )
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(32)
pQP 4 J = σ τ χ φ (1 − ω ) (33)

5.4 Computation of error correction costs

Detected delivery errors imply replacement of wrongly delivered containers. In case the right
material exist at the supermarket in the proper location this means returning to the supermarket area
and picking a substitute container by incurring a cost CDEJI (€/container),

 2L 
CDEJ I =  tr / s + 4t L / U + SM  Coh (34)
 Vv 

where LSM is the supermarket to workstation distance, while other symbols have been already
defined.

In the case where a supermarket replenishment error was made, so that the right material is not in
the intended location, the container retired from the line has to be returned to the supermarket, and a
new container has to be resupplied directly from the warehouse, by incurring a cost CDEJII
(€/container),

 (L + L + L ) 
CDEJII =  tr / s + t fr + 4tL /U + SM SW WS  Coh (35)
 Vv 

where LSW is the supermarket to warehouse distance. Correction of undetected assembler’s errors
(i.e. when parts from a wrongly delivered container are used, or when the operators wrongly selects
the container to pick a part) may take place at a separate end of line error correction station, by
bearing the unit cost CRQJ (€/error) defined as made for LS policy.

Therefore, for each container handled the following possible annual expected quality cost
expressions (QCJ) may be derived for each QP.
QC1J: Expected annual cost for end of line correction of errors from partial utilization of parts from
wrongly delivered containers. As already derived in the case of LS

QC 1 J = A p QP 1 J EP CRQ J (∑ N TOT
i =1
ni ) (36)

QC2J : Expected annual cost for container substitution from the supermarket following a detected
delivery error

A ni
QC2J = ∑i=TOT
N
1
pQP2 J CDEJ I (37)
Qi J

QC3J : Expected annual cost for container substitution from the warehouse following a detected
delivery error
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A ni
QC3 J = ∑i=TOT
N
1
pQP3J CDEJ II (38)
QiJ

QC4J : Expected annual cost for end of line correction of expected assembly errors from picking
errors in case of correctly delivered containers. Following the same reasoning applied to QC3LS

( )
QC 4 J = A 1 − pQP1J EP p EA CRQ J ∑
N TOT
i =1
ni (39)

Finally, the total expected annual error correction cost TECCJ (€/yr), referring to all components
of all container handled to produce A assemblies per year, is
TECCJ = QC1J + QC2 J + QC3J + QC4 J (40)

6. APPLICATION EXAMPLE

In order to demonstrate the application of the proposed method, a brief example will be examined
refering to the assembly of an end item utilizing 50 different part types of which NI = 40 parts of
Type I, and NII = 10 parts of Type II each with a multiplicity of 2 units. A yearly production volume
A = 10.000 units/year is requested which would imply at least the handling of the same number of
kits. The parameters values assumed in the computation are reported in Table 1.

Table 1. Parameters data for numerical application

Parameter Value Parameter Value Parameter Value


Coh 30 (€/h) Ti 10 (min) λ 0.04
davg 50 (m) tL/U 10 (s) µ 0.95
EP 0.2 Tp 5 (min) ν 0.98
LSM 50 (m) tr/s 30 (s) ξ 0.90
LSW 30 (m) vtp 3 (km/h) ο 0.96
LWS 80 (m) Vv 4 (km/h) π 0.80
NCA 300 (€/unit) α 0.98 σ 0.98
pDE 0.2 β 0.96 τ 0.95
pEA 0.001(KIT); γ 0.8 φ 0.96
0.002(LS & JIT)
Qi 200 (LS); 10 (JIT) η 0.98 χ 0.98
Ta 10 (min) θ 0.98 ψ 0.80
Td 10 (min) ι 0.01
tfr 10 (s/carton) κ 0.01

Please note that numerical values of probabilities shown in Table 1 are not meant to be valid in
absolute terms. They are realistic order of magnitude estimates obtained through expert judgement
and checked with industry practitioners. In fact, to determine precise error probabilities is beyond
the scope of this work. Moreover, to give a specific reference value for an error probability would
be misleading as it would depend from the actual complexity of the performed tasks and the
existence of error-proof procedures or the performance shaping factors reflecting the environmental
situations typical of each company. For instance a part picking error probability may be
substantially different if the operator uses a manual pick list or a pick-to-light or pick-to-voice
system. Therefore, reliable values for error probabilities should be obtained resorting to on-site
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empirical experiments (i.e. monitoring task execution over a suitably long time span and collecting
statistics of error occurrence frequency) or relying on specific error probability calculation
techniques. Anyway, assumption of probability values based on expert judgement is widely
considered an acceptable pratice (Schuller et al., 1987; Spurgin, 2010; Whittingham, 2004). Further
guidance on methods to estimate error probabilities may be found in Section 2. Finally, there is
surely a link between errors in different feeding policies. In fact some error types are the same in all
policies and, therefore, may have the same probability of occurrence. For instance the probabiliy of
making a delivery error or loading the wrong container/kit on the transport vehicle may be the same
in all methods. Error correction cost and product non conformity cost depend from the internal
procedures used to correct quality non conformities and shold be provided by plant managers and
quality management Department.
In this numerical example in case of kitting, based on the previously developed model, the
computed probability values are δ = 0.8 from Eq. (3), ε = 0.699 from Eq. (4), ζ = 0.951 from Eq.
(5), PGI = 0.9956 and PGII = 0.9952 from Eqs. (1) and (2) respectively, NEKI = 0.174, NEKII = 0.048,
pQP1K = 0.012, pQP2K = 0.047, pQP3K = 0.057, pQP4K = 0.131, pQP5K = 0.043, from Eqs. (6) to (10)
respectively, while the probability of correctly assembling an error-free kit is 0.716. Computed unit
cost values are CRQK = 18.5 €/part, from Eq. (12), and CDEK = 3.5 €/part from Eq. (11). The
expected unit error costs are QC1K = 300 €/unit, QC2K = 3.5 €/unit, QC3K = 4.37 €/kit, QC4K = 0.78
€/kit, QC5K = 0.93 €/kit from Eqs. (13) to (17) respectively. The resulting total quality related cost,
computed according to Eq. (18), is 41079.5 €/year. This overall annual amount is decomposed,
according to Eq. (18), into partial costs items related to the various QPK, as shown in Figure 11.
Overall, for a production volume of 10.000 units/year the expected total number of occurrences of
the various quality problems is 2905, with a rounded breakdown according to type of quality
problem shown in Figure 9, obtained multiplying the production volume times the probability of
occurrence of each quality problem type.
Figure 9. Number of expected error occurrences (kitting case).
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The number of correctly assembled error-free kits is 7095. This confirms that logistic errors in parts
feeding processes may be a relevant issue as far as the number of affected kits is concerned and the
related costs. In this example the most frequent error derives from QP4K, i.e. correction at
workstation of detected parts errors within a kit before assembly, but this is the result of previous
errors. Nevertheless, QP4K accounts for a minor part of total error correction costs. The major
contributions to TECCK, instead, come from assembly a non conforming product from a wrong kit
(QC1K), end of line correction of errors from assembly of kits having undetected parts errors
(QC3K) and delivering replacement kits (QC2K). They amount to more than 96% of TECCK.
Therefore, the key to reducing TECCK lies in better control of the order release process, avoidance
of delivery error, and increasing the capability of line operators to detect kit delivery error or parts
kitting errors. This suggests to introduce a stricter control on the kit preparation process in order to
obtain error-free kits. It must be pointed out that the TECCK deeply depends on the non conforming
product cost (NCA), and this value is generally related to final product value. From analysis of error
trees one can even recognize the different role played by corrective measures. In fact, all measures
reducing error occurrence (i.e. increasing α, β, δ, η, θ, ζ, or decreasing ι, κ, λ) play a preventive
role, while measures increasing the error detection capability (i.e. increasing γ, ε, µ) play a
protective role. In this respect, even if error commission cannot be reduced, it is of paramount
importance at least to increase the line operator capability to detect errors in kit delivery or kit
preparation, as a last barrier to prevent error propagation to the assembly process. A sensitivity
analysis was then carried out to assess the impact of each of the main parameters affecting the
TECCK (i.e. Eq. 18) and assuming the nominal parameters values of Table 1. Results are shown in
Fig. 10 in term of a sensitivity coefficient K, defined as the percent variation of TECCK
(∆TECCK%) per unit percent variation of the parameter appearing on the x axis. As a consequence,
when a generic percent variation (∆IV%) is assigned to an independent input variable IV (i.e. α, β,
Coh, etc.), the corresponding percent variation of total annual error correction cost can be computed
as ∆TECCK% = K ∆IV%. A value K = 1 represent a case where a given percent variation of the
input value is mirrored in the same percent variation of TECCK. When K>1 an effect amplification
occurs. An effect attenuation occurs, instead, when K<1. For instance if K = 3 a 10% variation of
the corresponding input variable determines a 30% variation of TECC.
It should be pointed out that the sensitivity analysis does not show the percent total cost variation
given a percent variation of the considered independent parameter. Rather, by computing the value
of the sensitivity coefficient "K" we compute the local partial derivative of total cost with reference
to unit changes in the independent parameter value IV. Therefore, when imposing a user-defined
given percent variation of IV one can quickly compute the resulting percent variation of total cost.
However, is worthwile to remember that as the value of K represents the local partial derivative of
total cost respect the IV, when the cost function is non-linear in IV, the K value can change across
the IV variability range. Nevertheless, to compute K we imposed a ± 50% variation of IV values
respect the nominal ones indicated in Table 1, exception made for those parameters where the
application of this range provided unfeasible results. For instance, given that a probability can only
have a maximum value of 1, in case the nominal value is 0.95 a 50% increase is not phisically
possible and only a 2% increase is allowed. In such cases the maximum variation range of IV was
computed on a case-by-case basis.
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Figure 10. Sensitivity analysis (kitting).

Results show that parameters which have the major impact on TECCK are the kit correct order
probability (α), the kit correct delivery probability (β), the probability of wrong kit delivery
detection (γ), the probability of detecting parts errors at the workstation (µ), the probability of
including a required part into a kit (η) and the probability of including the correct part (θ).
Interestingly, the above parameters are also directly responsible of the three major cost items
affecting TECCK, namely QC1K, QC2K and QC3K. This means that great effort should be given to
operator training in order to prevent the above errors. For instance, to ensure that no part are
missing from kits a check list could be introduced as a further quality control after kit preparation to
increase η. Operators should be taught how to distinguish between similar parts, and a warning
could be introduced in pick lists to signal the presence of parts easy to be confused. Additional post-
kitting checks on similar parts could be introduced to increase θ. Poka-yoke approaches in kit
containers could be also introduced to increase θ. Specific colour codes or cards matching with
destination workstations could be introduced to reduce delivery errors and increase β. The
probability of ordering the right kit (α) is not a matter material handling and should be acted upon
by revising the production planning procedures. Finally, line operators should be taught how to
discover parts delivery errors to increase µ, possibly issuing specific checklists to be used at the
workstations.

In case of Line Storage and JIT delivery the computed probability values, assuming QiLS=200
and QiJ=10, are ρ = 0.67 from Eq. (19), ω = 0.98 from Eq. (29), pQP1LS = 0.123, pQP2LS = 0.031,
pQP3LS = 0.279, from Eqs. (20) to (22) respectively, pQP1J = 0.025, pQP2J = 0.060, pQP3J = 0.039, pQP4J
= 0.017, from Eqs. (30) to (33) respectively, whereas computed costs are: CRQLS and CRQJ both
19.1 €/part as computed by Eq. (24), CDELS = 1.78 €/part from Eq. (23), and CDEJ = 1.33 €/part
from Eq. (34) (case without supermarket replenishment error).
The resulting total quality related cost is 87644 €/year in case of JIT, and 93699 €/year in case of
LS, subdivided among error types as shown in Figure 11. The error occurrences are instead shown
in Figure 12. In this example JIT is a lower cost option respect LS while still remaining much more
costly respect kitting. Nevertheless, this is not necessarily a generalizable result. In this case study,
in particular, one observes that in a LS policy the cost of substituting pallets following a detected
delivery error (QP1LS) is negligible, although the corresponding error occurrence is rather frequent,
while correcting assembler's errors is significant, even because this is the most frequently occurring
error. However, the major cost contribution (i.e. about 77% of total cost) is from partial utilization
of parts from wrongly delivered parts (QP2LS) even if this is the error occurring with the lowest
frequency.

In order to reduce the impact of QP2LS one should at first reduce as much as possible the value of
the percentage (EP) of parts contained in the pallet which is used by the assembler before
recognizing the delivery error. This asks for using proper pallet identification techniques and
assembly operators training. It is also worth noting that a reduction of EP will reduce QC2LS but
will also increase QC3LS, so that a trade-off should be reached. A reduction of probability pQP2 LS
would be beneficial too in order to reduce QC2LS, although to a lesser extent, given the already low
frequency of this kind of error. In any case this could be accomplished by reducing the probability
of wrong pallet loading on the transport vehicle (i.e. increasing ξ), by reducing the probability of
wrong delivery (i.e. increasing ο), and by increasing the probability of detecting a delivery error
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(i.e. increasing π). To this end techniques similar to the ones discussed for the kitting case could be
adopted. In case of QP3LS one needs to reduce either the error cost and its frequency, given that
both values might be high. Apart from the cautionary note about the role of EP, reducing the value
of assembly operator picking error probability pEA will increase ρ, thus reducing pQP3 LS and will
directly reduce QC3LS. However, another trade-off arises considering that increasing ξ and ο to
reduce pQP2 LS will increase pQP3 LS, and that to reduce QC3LS an increase of pQP2 LS would be
beneficial. Thus suggests that QP2LS and QP3LS are strongly interrelated so that they should be
minimized as a whole. However, the sensitivity analysis of Figure 13 shows that TECCLS is much
more sensitive to ξ , π, and ο respect to pEA.

Even in case of JIT, the major costs come from correcting errors from partial use of parts from
wrongly delivered containers (QP1J, about 65% of total cost) and correcting assembler's errors
(QP4J, accounting for about 27% of total cost,) even if both kinds of error occur with low
frequency. On the contrary the cost of substituting containers after a detected delivery error (from
both the supermarket or the warehouse, QP2J and QP3J) are much less significant. Moreover, in JIT
systems the frequency distribution of different error types is fairly uniform. The absolute number of
errors occurrences is much lower in JIT respect LS and kitting, but total error cost is very high. This
suggests that the average economic impact of an error in JIT systems is much higher than in other
systems.

Figure 11. Comparison of expected costs.


To reduce QC1J one should reduce pQP1 J, by increasing ψ, σ, τ, χ, φ, and reduce as well EP.
Conversely, in order to reduce QC4J one should increase both pQP1 J and EP. Moreover, acting on
σ, τ, χ, φ, has an opposite effect on pQP1 J, and on pQP4 J, so that increasing σ, τ, χ, φ, lowers pQP1 J
but increases pQP4 J. In this case too a strict trade-off between QC1J and QC4J holds. A lower value
of assembly operator picking error probability pEA will also help to reduce QC4J, but TECCJ is
much more sensitive to ψ, σ, τ, χ, φ, than to pEA (see Figure 14).
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Figure 12: Number of expected error occurrences; a) LS case and b) JIT case.

Figure 13: Sensitivity analysis (Line Storage).

Figure 14: Sensitivity analysis (Just In Time).

Overall, in this case study the quality cost problem is much more relevant in LS or JIT systems
respect kitting systems. This is an interesting finding. In fact, from an economic point of view,
kitting systems are disadvantaged respect continuous supply policies given their high workforce
requirements. Previous research on cost comparison between feeding policies (Caputo et al., 2016)
showed, in fact, that when quality costs are neglected JIT policy is generally preferable, exception
made for very high cost items (where kitting is preferable) or high parts weight (where line storage
is preferable). Other research showed that cost-optimal policy assignment privileges lines storage as
compared to JIT and kitting (Caputo et al. 2015e) or privileges line storage as compared to kitting
(Limère et al., 2012). However, such economic comparisons neglect quality costs. When quality
costs are factored in kitting systems may become much more competitive from an economic point
of view and, considering that LS can have quality costs higher than JIT, the economic superiority of
LS can be questioned as well. Therefore, while kitting may prove invaluable in case of space
limitations at workstations or in case of mixed model production where several variants of end
products requiring dedicated components are assembled, but is economically penalizing in terms of
operators cost, the correct imputation of quality costs may rebalance total costs among competing
policies. This proves that quality cost assessment is a critical factor in the choice of parts feeding
methods, even if it has been neglected up to now.
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7. CONCLUSIONS

Errors in the logistic process supplying parts to assembly lines is a neglected but relevant issue
which is responsible of significant costs and quality problems. While literature on this topic is
scarce, to the best of our knowledge this is the first extended work in the literature developing
comparative models for quantitative assessment of quality problems, error rates and related
correction costs in parts feeding systems for assembly lines. Therefore, it can complement existing
literature models which only compare parts feeding policies on the basis of other points of view (i.e.
workforce, work in process and space occupation cost) but neglect quality costs. This allows a more
comprehensive comparison of the cost-effectiveness of different parts feeding strategies. Apart from
the use in cost comparison, the developed model highlights the role played by each error type
occurrence on quality problems, helps to identify problem areas, and suggests possible means to
improve quality of parts feeding process.

In particular, resorting to an application example it was found that the main sources of error costs in
kitting systems are assembly a non conforming product from a wrong kit, delivering replacement
kits, and end of line correction of errors from assembly of kits having undetected parts errors. In
Line Storage systems the most relevant costs refer to end of line correction of both errors from
assembly of parts from a wrongly delivered container and assembly of wrongly picked parts. The
same applies to Just In Time systems. However, the potential of kitting systems of reducing overall
quality costs, despite the added opportunity of committing errors during the kit preparation phase,
which does not exist in continuous supply policies, has been confirmed, at least in the examined
case study. This helps to improve the economic competitiveness of kitting respect LS and JIT.

Managerial insights to identify specific measures to reduce error occurrence and related cost can be
gained from the proposed models. In particular, the critical role of error detection by line operators
as a final barrier to prevent error propagation has been recognized and quantified. Although such
conclusion are not necessarily generalizable, being based on a case study, they clarify the
operational scenario characterizing the logistic process and provide useful suggestions to improve
the process quality. Convenience of a given policy from the point of view of quality costs is strictly
dependent on the specific manufacturing system and product structure, so that generalization is not
possible. Nevertheless, the proposed models provide a general purpose means to identify problem
areas and improve system performances, useful to assess which supply method is preferred in a
given scenario. The main limitation of the method is that error rates have been estimated based on
expert judgment while they can be computed according to established method for human reliability
assessment. This is especially true for the error probability at the single part level in kitting systems,
which depend from a number of different causal errors as shown in Table A1. While the main
interest of the paper is not to develop human error model but to compare the effectiveness of
different parts feeding strategies, in a future research quantitative techniques for human error
analysis will be used to estimate event probabilities based on the study of all underlying modes and
causes of human error. Another issue is that error rates available in databases used by the above
mentioned techniques are not specific for that tasks encontered in materials handling and parts
feeding. Therefore future research will involve an extensive experimental campaign to develop a
library of error rates specific for material handling tasks. This would also provide an empirical
validation of the model which, at the moment, is theory-based. A further application of this research
will be to use the insight from this model to develop error-proofing techniques to reduce error rates
in parts handling according to the qualitative findings already pointed out in this paper.

Nomenclature
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A [item/yr] Annual end product demand


CDE [€/container] Substitution cost for wrongly delivered stock keeping unit
Coh [€/h] Operator hourly cost
CRQ [€/error] Correction of undetected assembler’s error cost
davg [m] Warehouse to line mean distance
EP [-] Percentage of material utilization
L [m] Distance
N [-] Number of parts
NCA [€/error] Non conformity unit cost for an entire assembly
ni [-] Multiplicity of i-th part type into one end product
p [-] Probability
QC# [-] Quality cost of type # quality problem
Qi [item/container ] Container capacity
QP# [-] Quality problem of type #
Ta [h] Reassembly time
Td [h] Disassembly time
TECC [€/yr] Total annual error correction cost
tfr [h/carton] Carton fractioning time
Ti [h] Inspection time
tL/U [h] Load/Unload time
Tp [h] Item picking time
tr/s [h] Warehouse picking time
vtp [m/h] Operator walking velocity
Vv [m/h] Vehicle velocity

Additional Subscripts

DE Error detection
E Error outcome
EA Assembly error
G Good outcome
I Item included as a single unit into a kit
II Item included in more than one unit into a kit
J Just In Time policy
JI Just In Time policy, for wrongly delivered container being the correct one in the supermarket
JII Just In Time policy, for wrongly delivered container being the correct one in the warehouse
K Kitting policy
LS Line Storage policy
QC# Quality cost of type #
QP# Quality problem of type #
SM Supermarket to line
SW Warehouse to supermarket
TOT Total
WS Warehouse to line

Greek Symbols

α Correct kit order probability


β Correct delivery probability
γ Detection probability of wrong kit delivery
δ Probability of kit right preparation
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ε Probability of kit error awareness by line operator


ζ Probability of correct assembling by line operator
η Probability of part inclusion into a kit
θ Probability of correct part inclusion into a kit
ι Probability of part multiplicity less than required
κ Probability of part damage
λ Probability of part positional mistake into a kit
µ Probability of part error detection at kitting station
ν Probability of correct order
ξ Probability of right pallet loaded on fork lift
ο Probability of right delivery
π Probability of operator detecting wrong delivery
ρ Probability of picking an item from the right pallet by line operator (LS)
σ Probability of correct order
τ Probability of right material at the supermarket storage location
φ Probability of right delivery
χ Probability of right container loaded on tugger train
ψ Probability that operator detects wrong delivery
ω Probability of picking an item from the right container by line operator (JIT)

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APPENDIX

Table A1. Error taxonomy for the kit preparation process

JOB DESCRIPTION ERROR CATEGORY LOGISTIC ERROR


Task Omission Commission Selection Sequence Timing Quantity
Item inclusion in pick list 7 17 i)
Pick list issue/retrieval 19 i); ii)
Item line reading 14 13 i); ii)
Part picking 8; 9; 4; 12; 18 i); ii)
Part processing (optional) 11 6; 15 iii)
Part counting (optional) 3 2 iv)
Part placement in kit 5 10 v)
Part checking 1 16 i); ii); iii); iv); v)
LEGEND - HUMAN ERRORS: 1) Check not performed; 2) Counting error; 3) Counting not performed; 4) Failure to identify correct part; 5) Failure to insert a
picked part in kit; 6) Incorrect processing; 7) Missing item in pick list; 8) Missing part in warehouse and failure to report exception; 9) Picking not performed; 10)
Placement in bad position; 11) Processing not performed; 12) Putaway error (wrong part in storage location); 13) Reading error; 14) Reading not performed (line
skipped); 15) Unwanted processing (part damaged); 16) Wrong check performed; 17) Wrong item inclusion; 18) Wrong part picked (picking from wrong storage
location); 19) Wrong pick list selection. LOGISTIC ERRORS: i) Part missing from kit; ii) Wrong part in kit; iii) Part unfit for use/damaged; iv) Incorrect parts
number (in case of multiple parts); v) Parts in wrong sequence/position.

Table A2. Error taxonomy for the Kit transportation and utilization process

JOB DESCRIPTION ERROR CATEGORY LOGISTIC ERROR


Task Omission Commission Selection Sequence Timing Quantity
Kit request 6 5 7 8 vii)
Kit preparation See Table A1 viii)
Kit loading on transport vehicle 10 10 10 vii)
Delivery to destination 4 vii)
Check of proper kit receipt 3 9 vii)
Parts checking at assembly station 2 9 ix)
Parts assembly 1 ix)
LEGEND - HUMAN ERRORS: 1) Assembly error; 2) Check for parts error not performed; 3) Check not performed; 4) Delivery at wrong destination; 5) Error in
kit /product association, 6) Error in order transmission/interpretation, 7) Improper sequencing, 8) Improper timing, 9) Wrong check performed, 10) Wrong kit
loaded. LOGISTIC ERRORS: vii) Wrong kit at destination; viii) Kit containing non conformities delivered at the workstation; ix) Assembly error.
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Table A3. Error taxonomy for the LS pallet transportation and utilization process

JOB DESCRIPTION ERROR CLASS LOGISTIC ERROR


Task Omission Commission Selection Sequence Timing Quantity
Pallet request 4 i)
Pallet loading on transport vehicle 7 i)
Delivery to destination 3 i)
Check of proper pallet receipt 2 6 i)
Parts utilization 1 5 ii)
LEGEND - HUMAN ERRORS: 1) Assembly error; 2) Check not performed, 3) Delivery at wrong destination, 4) Error in order transmission/interpretation, 5)
Part picking error, 6) Wrong check performed, 7) Wrong pallet loaded. LOGISTIC ERRORS: i) Wrong pallet at destination; ii) Assembly error.

Table A4. Error taxonomy for the JIT container transportation and utilization process

JOB DESCRIPTION ERROR CLASS LOGISTIC ERROR


Task Omission Commission Selection Sequence Timing Quantity
Container request at supermarket 4 i)
Supermarket replenishment 9 i)
Container loading on transport vehicle 7 6 i)
Delivery to destination 3 i)
Check of proper container receipt 2 8 i)
Parts utilization 1 5 ii)
LEGEND - HUMAN ERRORS: 1) Assembly error; 2) Check not performed; 3) Delivery at wrong destination; 4) Error in order transmission/interpretation; 5)
Part picking error; 6) Picking from wrong storage location; 7) Picking of wrong container stored in right location; 8) Wrong check performed, 9) Wrong item
replenishment or wrong location putaway. LOGISTIC ERRORS: i) Wrong container at destination; ii) Assembly error.